ACAMPAIGN has been launched to honour four "forgotten" Scottish heroines who campaigned against slavery and played a key role in the fight for women's rights.

A series of events will be held this year to highlight the work of 19th-century activists Elizabeth Pease Nichol, Priscilla Bright McLaren, Eliza Wigham and Jane Smeal.

The project, by an Edinburgh-based women's history group, will be launched on Friday with an event to discuss how the four women, and other women of historical note in Scotland, should be commemorated.

Last week, the Sunday Herald revealed how, out of hundreds of statues across Scotland, just 20 celebrate the achievements of individual women, with key figures such as Mary Queen of Scots omitted.

The four women were leading lights in the Edinburgh Ladies' Emancipation Society and formed links with abolitionist groups in the US before the American civil war.

Carol Stobie, tutor of the Damned Rebel Bitches (DRB) Scottish Women's History Group, said one of their most notable moments was carving "graffiti" into the turf on Edinburgh's Salisbury Crags in the 1840s with Frederick Douglass, a former slave and American social reformer.

She said: "They carved the words "send back the money". It was to do with the Free Church which broke away from the main church of Scotland in the early 1840s and then got some of their fundraising money from slave-owning congregations in the southern states (of America).

"When that was found out about in Scotland, there was a huge fuss and a huge campaign called 'Send Back the Money'.

"Frederick Douglass is an amazingly important figure in American history. He toured round the halls and church halls of Scotland and these women were working hand in hand with him."

Stobie said the project, which has received Heritage Lottery funding, aimed to highlight the women's "hidden" contribution to history and to gather ideas on how they should be commemorated.

She added: "It doesn't necessarily have to be a traditional figurative statue – these were Quaker women who didn't believe in personal fame, so it could be a completely different form of public commemoration, like naming a place."

She said it was also hoped it would inspire people to get involved in campaigns on modern issues such as anti-trafficking.

The four women also led campaigns to change the law on how slaves were treated post-abolition and organised a boycott of slave-grown sugar products.

In later years they worked against poverty in Edinburgh and to change laws affecting women, including prostitutes. They also campaigned for women's right to vote and to own property .

Historian and author Eric J Graham, who is backing the project, said Nichol, McLaren, Wigham and Smeal were four women who had taken on the "great moral crusades" of the mid to late-19th century.

He said: "They start off as leading lights in the anti-slavery movement and ended up being leading lights of the suffragist movement.

"They shifted public opinion on the great issues of the day."