SAN FRANCISCO, JAN. 19 -- A far-reaching settlement was announced today in a long-fought sex discrimination case against State Farm Insurance Co., allowing women who believe they were unfairly denied jobs as sales agents in California to seek millions of dollars in damages.

The agreement represents the "largest potential monetary recovery" in the history of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964 and could cost the company up to $300 million, said Guy T. Saperstein, an Oakland attorney for the plaintiffs in the 9-year-old case.

However, M. Kirby C. Wilcox, a San Francisco lawyer for State Farm, called Saperstein's claim "totally unsupportable" and "highly speculative."

To approach the result predicted by Saperstein, the vast majority of more than 1,000 potential claimants would have to show they were denied jobs in favor of less-qualified male applicants, Wilcox said.

The settlement, tentatively approved by a federal judge, covers women who sought and were denied 1,113 sales agent jobs at State Farm from July 1974 to last December.

Under its terms, the company for the next 10 years will set aside 50 percent of new agent jobs in California for women -- the same hiring quota State Farm has been applying in the state for the past two years. Such jobs frequently pay more than $75,000 annually, lawyers said.

The agreement also provides nearly $1.3 million in damages to be shared equally among the three rejected California applicants who brought the class-action suit -- Muriel Kraszewski of Long Beach, Wilda Tipton of Oxnard, and the estate of Daisy Jackson of Palo Alto, who died in 1983.

Kraszewski claimed she had been denied a sales job in 1975 after 12 years of service with State Farm as a secretary, office manager and other positions in which she performed nearly all the functions of an agent.

"They told me I had to have a college education and that I had to relocate and that my husband had too much control over me," she said in an interview.

"Most male agents I knew did not have a college education and had never been required to relocate . . . and {company officials} had never even met my husband," she said.

Kraszewski filed a complaint with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in 1975 and four years later joined the federal lawsuit.

Currently, she said, she works as an agent for another company and makes more than $500,000 a year. "I don't think women have any trouble selling insurance," she said.

The agreement was announced nearly three years after U.S. District Court Judge Thelton E. Henderson ruled that the Illinois-based company had violated federal job-bias laws by discriminating against women in recruiting and hiring sales agents in California.

In 1974, women held only two of 1,454 agents jobs for State Farm in California and by 1981, only 65 of 1,847 such positions.