Lerner is a pioneer in the field of women's history and black women's history. Her books, such as the Creation of Feminist Consciousness, have been a staple of women's studies classes for decades. In her collection of essays, Why History Matters, Lerner described her experiences as a female Jewish atheist: "More difficult and public was my refusal, four weeks before the appointed date, to go through with my Bar Mitzvah on the grounds that since I no longer believed in God nor in what was taught in religious instruction, it would be hypocritical for me to go through the ceremony. This provoked a family crisis, much noise, anger and pressure of various sorts, but in the end I prevailed. But more--I refused to set foot in a synagogue again and kept to that refusal for over fifty years." Lerner links her experiences as an atheist with her eventual career choice as a historian. According to Lerner, "What is left to a Jew who refuses the religious community? Antisemitism and history."