There is a growing body of work on white farmers in Zimbabwe. Yet the role played by white women – so-called ‘farmers’ wives’ – on commercial farms has been almost completely ignored, if not forgotten. For all the public role and overt power ascribed to white male farmers, their wives played an equally important, although often more subtle, role in power and labour relations on white commercial farms. This ‘soft power’ took the form of maternalistic welfare initiatives such as clinics, schools, orphan programmes and women’s clubs, most overseen by a ‘farmer’s wife’. Before and after Zimbabwe’s 1980 independence these played an important role in attracting and keeping farm labourers, and governing their behaviour. After independence they also became crucial to the way white farmers justified their continued ownership of most of Zimbabwe’s prime farmland.